Missouri National Guard Soldiers sweep regional Best Warrior contest
By Staff Sgt. Ty Stafford
FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. – Two Missouri Soldiers took top honors when 14 Guardsmen from seven states competed in tests of physical and mental endurance during the annual Region V Best Warrior Competition at Fort Leonard Wood last week.
The competition promotes esprit de corps and recognizes noncommissioned officers (NCOs) and Soldiers who demonstrate commitment to the Army values, embody the warrior ethos, and represent the force of the future.
The Adjutant General of Missouri, Maj. Gen. Steve Danner, spoke highly of the competitors.
“It takes a lot of tenacity, commitment and courage to participate in this high-level event,” said Danner. “Only the best of the best from each state get to compete. Our Missouri Guardsmen represented the Show-Me State exceedingly well by earning the top spots. I’m also proud of the amazing job their coaches did, motivating them before and during the competition.”
The competition is divided into two categories – the enlisted best warrior and the noncommissioned officer competition. Seven Soldiers and seven noncommissioned officers from Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas competed for the honor of representing Region V in the National Competition at Camp Williams, Utah, June 22 – 25.
Soldiers must be in the ranks of private through specialist in order to compete in the Soldier category. Individuals competing for the NCO of the Year title include ranks of corporal through sergeant first class.
Each Soldier and NCO competed at various levels to include company, battalion, brigade and state, before representing their respective state at the Region V competition.
Prior to the regional competition, all the Missouri Soldiers and NCOs trained with Soldier coaches to better prepare for the events.
“Train up went well,” said Sgt. Dan Stevens, 1135th Engineer Company, who was the second place NCO in the state competition and acted as a coach for winner Staff Sgt. James Chevalier, 1128th Forward Support Company. “We were down here for four days taking apart weapons and putting them back together, going through medical lanes, and studying the 10-level task book.”
The competition is designed to test each individual on all facets of warrior skills including weapons qualification, physical fitness and knowledge of military topics. In the course of two and a half days, the competitors completed the following events: Army Physical Fitness Test, marksmanship evaluation, 12-mile road march carrying a 35-pound rucksack, obstacle course, day and night land navigation courses, warrior tasks evaluation, stress shoot, 500-word essay and an appearance board. Soldiers were awarded points or given a pass or fail for completing each phase of the competition.
The noncommissioned officer-in-charge of this year’s event, Sgt. 1st Class Cody Fields of the 140th Regimental Training Institute, said hosting the event was a welcome challenge.
“There are a lot more moving parts when the other states are working with you, but you get a lot of skills and knowledge with those outside entities,” said Fields.
Two regional trainers were requested from each state to help grading, evaluating and acting as observers and controllers.
“The competition went well,” said Fields. “All the competitors were in high spirits. They’re worn out but no complaining.”
In addition to the physical competitions, the Soldiers went before an appearance board comprised of senior command sergeants major from the region. The boards evaluated competitor appearance, military bearing and knowledge of Army doctrine.
The entire state is proud of the two Soldiers, said State Command Sgt. Major Will Pierce.
“This event proved to all that we have the best Army Guard Soldiers in a seven state region,” said Pierce. “Now it is time to put our best against the rest. I am confident we will be successful at the Army National Guard Best Warrior competition in Utah next month.”
For Spc. Christian Lindhardt, the regional enlisted Best Warrior winner from the 1135th Engineer Company, the competition was a stressful environment.
“It’s actually pretty cool and very intimidating as I am representing Missouri in our home state,” Lindhardt said. There is a lot of pressure, but I love every minute of it.”
After the smoke cleared and individual tasks completed, the regional Best Warriors had time to reflect on their accomplishments.
“I couldn’t have done it without my coaches, sponsors, family and friends behind me,” Chevalier said. “Especially the 1128th, 129th and the 110th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade supporting me.
Lindhardt agreed, saying each level of events had been challenging in their own way but the level of support from his leadership and NCOs was the contributing factor to where he’s at today.
Senior leaders concurred that the coaches made a significant difference for the competitors, said Pierce.
“Our coaches basically cared for, studied with and even completed the 12-mile road with their competitor,” Pierce said. “Our coaches are usually Best Warrior candidate themselves, but at this level, they take the role of support, cheerleader and coach. Both did an outstanding job and deserved the pride they felt when their warrior won.”
Pierce described how the competition has changed over the years.
“Years ago, we competed for Soldier and NCO of the Year,” said Pierce. “The competition was primarily an appearance board where military knowledge was tested. Today’s Best Warrior competition is a completely new game. The need for ‘whole Soldier,’ in response to our nation’s wars, has driven the competition to require so much more than just intellect. The new program requires competitors to be intelligent, athletic warriors. The skills, stamina and intellectual challenges make for amazing results. If you challenge warriors, they will rise to the task.”
Final Results for Best Warrior Noncommissioned Officers:
1st Place Staff Sgt. James Chevalier, Missouri
2nd Place Staff Sgt. Jason Winer, Nebraska
3rd Place Sgt. Seth Woodfield, Louisiana
Final Results for Best Warrior enlisted Soldiers:
1st Place Spc. Christian Lindhardt, Missouri
2nd Place Sgt. Scott Kuzminski, Nebraska
3rd Place Spc. Dillon Thomas, Oklahoma
Other competitors included:
Sgt. 1st Class Adam Anderson, Arkansas
Spc. Tyler Magie, Arkansas
Sgt. Matthew Copeland, Kansas
Spc. Karson Zeltwanger, Kansas
Spc. Andy Gonzalez, Louisiana
Sgt. Dakota Pruitt, Oklahoma
Sgt. Kevin Armbrester, Texas
Spc. Peter Schraff, Texas